Transient abnormalities in serum bilirubin and lactate dehydrogenase levels following red blood cell transfusions in adults.

Journal Article


The effect of transfusion of small amounts of packed red blood cells (PRBC) on serum chemistry values is not known.


We studied 73 adult patients without evidence of bleeding who received 2-unit PRBC transfusions. In study 1 (n=39), we examined multiple laboratory values pretransfusion and 15 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 24 hours posttransfusion. In study 2 (n=34), we examined changes in fractionated bilirubin, lactate dehydrogenase, and haptoglobin prior to and 1 hour following the transfusion.


Total bilirubin increased from a median pretransfusion baseline of 0.7 mg/dL to 1.4 mg/dL shortly after transfusion (P <0.0005), and then returned to normal 24 hours later. Of the 36 patients with normal pretreatment total bilirubin levels, 17 (47%) became transiently abnormal. The lactate dehydrogenase level increased similarly 15 minutes after transfusion, but returned to baseline 24 hours later. The unconjugated bilirubin level increased from a median baseline pretransfusion value of 0.3 mg/dL to 1.1 mg/dL at 1 hour posttransfusion (P <0.0005). No significant changes were noted in conjugated bilirubin levels or haptoglobin concentration following transfusion.


Transient increases in serum bilirubin and lactate dehydrogenase are seen following transfusion of PRBC. These data should be considered when interpreting laboratory values during the first few hours after a transfusion.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wiesen, AR; Byrd, JC; Hospenthal, DR; Howard, RS; Shorr, AR; Glass, KL; Diehl, LF

Published Date

  • February 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 104 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 144 - 147

PubMed ID

  • 9528732

Pubmed Central ID

  • 9528732

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1555-7162

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9343

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0002-9343(97)00398-7


  • eng